Bertrada of Laon

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Bertrada of Laon
Queen consort of the Franks
Bertrada de Laon detail.JPG
Tomb of Bertrada of Laon at the Saint Denis Basilica
Bornbetween 710 and 727
Died(783-07-12)12 July 783
Buried Saint Denis Basilica
Spouse(s) Pepin the Short
Father Charibert of Laon

Bertrada of Laon (born between 710 and 727 – 12 July 783), also known as Bertrada the Younger or Bertha Broadfoot (cf. Latin: Regina pede aucae i.e. the queen with the goose-foot), was a Frankish queen. She was the wife of Pepin the Short and the mother of Charlemagne, Carloman and Gisela.

The abbreviation cf. is used in writing to refer the reader to other material to make a comparison with the topic being discussed. It is used to form a contrast, for example: "Abbott (2010) found supportive results in her memory experiment, unlike those of previous work ." It is recommended that cf. be used only to suggest a comparison, and the word see be used to point to a source of information.

Franks people

The Franks were a collection of Germanic peoples, whose name was first mentioned in 3rd century Roman sources, associated with tribes on the Lower and Middle Rhine, on the edge of the Roman Empire. Later the term was associated with later Romanized Germanic dynasties within the collapsing Roman Empire, who eventually commanded the whole region between the rivers Loire and Rhine. They then imposed power over many other post-Roman kingdoms and Germanic peoples, and still later they were given recognition by the Catholic Church as successors to the old rulers of the Western Roman Empire.

Pepin the Short King of the Franks

Pepin the Short was the King of the Franks from 751 until his death. He was the first of the Carolingians to become king.



Bertrada's nickname "Bertha Broadfoot" dates back to the 13th century, when it was used in Adenes Le Roi's trouvère Li rouman de Berte aus grands piés. [1] The exact reason that Bertrada was given this nickname is unclear. It is possible that Bertrada was born with a clubfoot, [2] although Adenes does not mention this in his poem. [1] The nickname might have been a reference to an ancient legend about a Germanic goddess named Perchta, to real and mythological queens named Bertha, or to several similarly-named Christian queens. [3] Many myths and legends exist in Europe and Asia, in which clubfooted people are described as the link between the world of the living and the spirit world. [4] The tavern sign in Anatole France's novel At the Sign of the Reine Pédauque alludes to this queen.

Adenes le Roi, was French minstrel or trouvère. He was a favourite of Henry III, duke of Brabant, and he remained at court for some time after the death of his patron in 1261.

Trouvère, sometimes spelled trouveur, is the Northern French form of the langue d'oc (Occitan) word trobador. It refers to poet-composers who were roughly contemporary with and influenced by the troubadours but who composed their works in the northern dialects of France. The first known trouvère was Chrétien de Troyes and the trouvères continued to flourish until about 1300. Some 2130 trouvère poems have survived; of these, at least two-thirds have melodies.

Clubfoot bone development disease

Clubfoot is a birth defect where one or both feet are rotated inward and downward. The affected foot and leg may be smaller than the other. In about half of those affected, both feet are involved. Most cases are not associated with other problems. Without treatment, people walk on the sides of their feet, which causes problems with walking.


Early life and ancestry

Bertrada was born sometime between 710 and 727 in Laon, in today's Aisne, France, to Count Charibert of Laon. [5] Charibert's father might have been related to Hugobertides. [6] [7] Charibert's mother was Bertrada of Prüm, who founded Prüm Abbey along with Charibert. Bertrada of Prüm was possibly the daughter of Theuderic III. [5]

Laon Prefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Laon is the capital city of the Aisne department in Hauts-de-France, northern France. As of 2012 its population is 25,317.

Aisne Department of France

Aisne is a French department in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France. It is named after the river Aisne.

Charibert, Count of Laon, was the maternal grandfather of Charlemagne. He was the father of Charles's mother, Bertrada of Laon. Only his mother is known from contemporary records. In 721, Charibert signed, with his mother Bertrada of Prüm the foundation act of the Abbey of Prüm. The same year, also with his mother, he made a donation to the Abbey of Echternach. By 744, his daughter Bertrada of Laon had married Pippin the Younger, mayor of the palace of Neustria and Burgundy and later king of the Franks. He died before 762, as stated in an act of his daughter and son-in-law.

Bertrada Broadfoot of Laon, at Versailles Bertrada Broadfoot of Laon Berthe au Grand Pied Versailles.jpg
Bertrada Broadfoot of Laon, at Versailles

Marriage and children

Bertrada married Pepin the Short, the son of Charles Martel, the Frankish "Mayor of the Palace", in 741. However, Pepin and Bertrada were too closely related for their marriage to be legal at that time; the union was not canonically sanctioned until 749, after the birth of Charlemagne. [8]

Charles Martel Frankish military and political leader

Charles Martel was a Frankish statesman and military leader who as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was the de facto ruler of Francia from 718 until his death. He was a son of the Frankish statesman Pepin of Herstal and Pepin's mistress, a noblewoman named Alpaida. Charles successfully asserted his claims to power as successor to his father as the power behind the throne in Frankish politics. Continuing and building on his father's work, he restored centralized government in Francia and began the series of military campaigns that re-established the Franks as the undisputed masters of all Gaul. According to a near-contemporary source, the Liber Historiae Francorum, Charles was "a warrior who was uncommonly ...effective in battle". Much attention has been paid to his success in defeating an Arab raid in Aquitaine at the Battle of Tours. Alongside his military endeavours, Charles has been traditionally credited with a seminal role in the development of the Frankish system of feudalism.

Under the Merovingian dynasty, the mayor of the palace or majordomo was the manager of the household of the Frankish king. The office existed from the sixth century, and during the seventh it evolved into the "power behind the throne" in the northeastern kingdom of Austrasia. In 751, the mayor of the palace, Pepin the Short, orchestrated the deposition of the king, Childeric III, and was crowned in his place.

According to French historian Léon Levillain, Bertrada was Pepin's first and only wife. [9] [10] [11] Other sources suggest that Pepin had previously married a "Leutberga" or "Leutbergie", with whom Pepin would have had five children. [12]

Bertrada and Pepin are known to have had seven children: three sons and four daughters. Of these, Charlemagne (c. 742 – 814), [13] Carloman (751–771) [14] and Gisela (757–811) survived to adulthood. Pepin, born in 756, died in his infancy in 762. Bertrada and Pepin also had Berthe, Adelaide, and Rothaide. Gisela became a nun at Chelles Abbey. [15]

Charlemagne King of the Franks, King of Italy, and Holy Roman Emperor

Charlemagne or Charles the Great, numbered Charles I, was king of the Franks from 768, king of the Lombards from 774, and emperor of the Romans from 800. During the Early Middle Ages, he united the majority of western and central Europe. He was the first recognised emperor to rule from western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. The expanded Frankish state that Charlemagne founded is called the Carolingian Empire. He was later canonized by Antipope Paschal III.

Chelles Abbey abbey located in Seine-et-Marne, in France

Chelles Abbey was a Frankish monastery founded c. 658 during the early medieval period. It was intended initially as a monastery for women; then its reputation for great learning grew, and with the afflux of men wishing to follow the monastic life, a parallel male community was established, creating a double monastery.

Queen of the Franks

A statue of Bertrada of Laon by Eugene Oudine, one of the twenty Reines de France et Femmes illustres in the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris. Bertrada of Laon Jardin du Luxembourg.jpg
A statue of Bertrada of Laon by Eugène Oudiné, one of the twenty Reines de France et Femmes illustres in the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris.

In 751, Pepin and Bertrada became King and Queen of the Franks, following Pepin's successful coup against the Frankish Merovingian monarchs. [16] Pepin was crowned in June 754, and Bertrada, Charlemagne, and Carloman were blessed by Pope Stephen II. [17] [18]

After Pepin's death in 768, Bertrada lost her title as Queen of the Franks. Charlemagne and Carloman inherited the two halves of Pepin's kingdom. Bertrada stayed at the court and often tried to stop arguments between the two brothers. [14] Some historians credit Bertrada's support for her elder son Charlemagne over her younger son Carloman, and her diplomatic skills, for Charlemagne's early success. [19] Although her influence over Charlemagne may have diminished in time, she lived at his court, and, according to Einhard, their relationship was excellent. Bertrada recommended that Charlemagne set aside his legal wife, Himiltrude, and marry Desiderata, a daughter of the Lombard king Desiderius, but Charlemagne soon divorced Desiderata. Einhard claims this was the only episode that ever strained relations between mother and son. [14]

Later life and death

Bertrada retired from the court after Carloman's death in 771 to live in Choisy-au-Bac, where Charlemagne had set aside a royal house for her. Choisy-au-Bac was favorable because of its history of being the home and burial place of several Merovingian kings. [14]

Bertrada died on 12 July 783 in Choisy-au-Bac. [14] Charlemagne buried her in the Basilica of St Denis near Pepin. [20]

In literature

Bertrada inspired Adenes Le Roi to write the trouvère Li rouman de Berte aus grands piés in 1270. Adenes referred to her as "Bertha Broadfoot", the earliest known usage of that nickname. [1]

Bertrada is also referred to as "Bertha Broadfoot" in François Villon's 15th-century poem Ballade des dames du temps jadis . [21]


  1. 1 2 3 Scheler & Le Roi 1874.
  2. Pelletier 2014, p. 52.
  3. Grimm 1835, p. 8.
  4. Ginzburg & Aymard 1989, pp. 206–251.
  5. 1 2 Settipani 1989.
  6. Keats-Rohan & Settipani 2000, p. 18.
  7. Pinoteau & de Vaulchier 2004, p. 43.
  8. Kurze 1895, p. 8.
  9. Tessier 1952.
  10. Settipani & van Kerrebrouck 1993, pp. 180–187.
  11. Levillain 1944, p. 55.
  12. Ducret 2007.
  13. Settipani & van Kerrebrouck 1993, p. 188.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Settipani & van Kerrebrouck 1993, p. 185.
  15. Settipani & van Kerrebrouck 1993, pp. 185–187.
  16. Mémoires couronnés et autres mémoires publiés par l'Académie royale des sciences, des lettres et des beaux-arts de Belgique 1861, p. 97.
  17. Settipani & van Kerrebrouck 1993, p. 184.
  18. Bernard 2004, p. 91.
  19. Lewis 2008.
  20. Les gisants de la basilique de Saint-Denis 2014.
  21. Villon c. 1460.

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Preceded by
Queen of the Franks
Succeeded by
Desiderata and Gerberga